The Ridgeway

Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.

Tales from the Big Trails – Vertebrate Publishing

Tales from the Big Trails – Amazon

{Sorry no pictures, I didn’t take a camera :-(, so here is one my wife took near Ivinghoe Beacon recently}

Near Ivinghoe, 2013 I think


A perfect introduction to the National Trails, if you had to pick one to start with, this comes highly recommended.  Early or late in the day, you can see the ancient texture of the landscape and really feel you are walking in the footsteps of our ancestors over a route which is perhaps the oldest in Britain, over 5,000 years old.

Completed in early September 2006 as a training run for the South West Coast Path.

Time of year

Perhaps best avoided at the height of summer, as there are few water sources on the route and the chalk reflects the heat, so it can get hot and you’ll need to carry 2+ litres of water.  Clear days in early Spring or late Autumn are ideal. Winter can be superb too, but the days are short and the paths can be muddy.

Length of walk

85 miles – which took me 4½ days. First ½ day from Avebury to Ogmore St. George campsite after catching a train to Swindon and Bus to Avebury. After reaching Ivinghoe Beacon walk to Ivinghoe and catch the bus to Aylesbury and train home from there. Alternatively, carry on to Norfolk on the Icknield Way.

The Ridgeway


Full heavy backpack, camping at Ogmore St. George after the first half days walking from the start at Avebury, then camping at Wantage YHA (now Court Hill Centre) and Wallingford. I slept in warm bed from Princes Risborough by catching the train home. I carried 2 days food, eating at the YHA and in the major towns otherwise.


I did not take any notes on this walk, so these paragraphs are written from what I can remember, 7 years later.

It is always amusing to be catching a commuter train in all your gear, knowing that you will be out on the hills, rather than stuck in front of a computer screen. So standing on an InterCity 125 to Swindon I got a few strange looks with my monster backpack.  The bus service to Avebury was swift, and then a further bus service dropped me near the start.  Blackberry’s provided lunch, delicious foraged food to provide energy to reach my first campsite.  This was a horse paddock, which I was told was empty, but in the middle of the night, I could hear horses munching away, fortunately on the other side of an electric fence.  No one to be found the following morning, so I slipped a £10 through the letterbox.

The next section is glorious ridge walking, with wonderful views over the Berkshire and Oxfordshire countryside and the Vale of White Horse.  The hill forts and ridge tracks make themselves apparent, giving a very real sense that you are walking in the footsteps of ancient travellers. On reaching Wantage YHA, I pitch my tent and retire for an evening meal with the other hostellers.  I read from a book about some who windsurfed around Britain in the 1970’s which sat on the hostel lounge bookshelf. Suitably humbled I return to my tent to find a gaggle of scouts try to put up tents for the first time, much to the amusement of the scout leaders. The chatter went on late in the evening, but I woke early and departing for Wallingford along the ridge until it descended to The Thames Path crossing at Goring.  There the path follows the river into Wallingford, for a comfortable campsite and facilities.

The next day you ascend the ancient Grim’s Ditch to reach the ridge once more and enter the Chilterns. The landscape changes to woodland rather than exposed downland and is very pleasant indeed, other than the rutted tracks that get churned up by 4×4 vehicles.  Much of the Ridgeway is multi-use, so beware Land Rovers and Enduro Bikes and more recently Mountain Bikes, the latter are difficult to hear or see if they approach from behind.

Princes Risborough is a very pleasant town, with a railway station that could easily whisk me home, so in the absence of campsites or hostels, I took this option as it was cheaper than staying in a B&B.  I return early next day with a daypack, to walk to Ivinghoe Beacon and the end of the Ridgeway.  This 18m section is a training run for me and often used to build my fitness levels before attempting the National Trails.  It gets a bit muddy in winter, but is a pleasant if a not challenging day.  I arrived mid afternoon to see the model gliders being flown from the top of the beacon and a welcome Trig. Point marking the end.  You can carry on to Norfolk if you like on the Icknield Way as the geology doesn’t stop here.


  • Day 1 – 10m – Travel to the start by train (Swindon) and Bus (Avebury) then walk to Ogbourne St.George campsite (check to see if this still exists)
  • Day 2 – 19m – Wantage YHA Hostel (now Court Hill Centre)
  • Day 3 – 20m – Wallingford campsite
  • Day 4 – 20m – Princes Risborough (sneaky train home, returning next day)
  • Day 5 – 18m – Ivinghoe Beacon, Bus from Ivinghoe to Aylesbury and Train home


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